Summer of Solidarity

The Centre for Democracy and Peace Building is delighted to partner with and support “Summer of Solidarity”.

This summer in Europe will be like no other. Across our contrasted continent, within our societies and also as individuals, we are experiencing something new and hard to define – a mixture of shock, trauma, uncertainty, and also of hopes, struggles, a quest for constructive paths forwards. We find ourselves in the midst of a confusing, transformative and certainly unique moment in time.

With the pandemic came pain, fear, restrictions, and fragmentation of our space. Countries were self-isolating, they turned inwards. Now, with a phased reopening of borders, new realities are dawning on us. Our continent is confronted with an economic crisis whose scale and consequences are likely to dwarf previous ones we’ve experienced. Meanwhile, struggles and debates criss-cross the region. A fight for fairness, justice and rights seems reawakened, as people claim what’s fundamental to them and also try to make sense of what their lives have become.

The virus has made evident the fragility of our societies and of our European solidarity at a state level. It has also made evident our connectedness, within our societies and across the continent, which now faces a huge test, economically, socially, politically – not least the Union within it.

Everybody seems to be waiting, gathering strength for what is to come. This summer feels like a gap, but with shifts and changes all around us. Time is suspended, and yet time is speeding up. Summer is a season where everything, much of it beautiful, can be possible. This year, one positive, beautiful thing we want to do is the simple gesture of paying more attention to each other.

We won’t be travelling much, but we c a n reach across the wide, diverse, human space of our continent in new ways. We can share and listen to each other’s stories, life experiences, memories, hopes. This is the time to explore what can bring us together and also what can drive us apart – within and across societies, cultures, countries.

Europe carries many stories within itself. Some of them are meant to pit people against one another. Some of them are cynical, fatalistic or threatening to fundamental principles of peace and tolerance. Our vision is very different – it is about believing in common values and a shared future, it is about protecting human dignity and celebrating diversity. What we want to do this summer is build a large collaborative network that connects people through vivid storytelling, that sheds light on people, places and issues in ways that help see beyond silos or thought bubbles. We’ll be keen to give a voice to people not always heard, to turn to young people, and to explore off the beaten track of news coverage. Together we’ll be sharing human stories from all across our continent: let’s try to rediscover ourselves, despite all the difficulties.

Again, we believe solidarity starts with being open and curious about one another. That’s why, as a loose collaborative network of citizens, journalists, media start-ups, civil society organizations and cultural groups from across wider Europe, we are launching the 2020 European “Summer of Solidarity” initiative.

“Summer of Solidarity” is an attempt to document a once-in-a-lifetime season and try to think about the future too. We want to create a space where we can meet, discover and debate, at a time when Europeans can’t travel and interact as before. We want to bring together a mosaic of human experiences – reaching across all sorts of boundaries, close to the ground, offering a deeper, more inclusive look at our continent.

We want to embrace Europe as a continent – a human space that is not limited to EU member countries.

“Summer of Solidarity” kicks off on 20 June and lasts until 20 August.

This is a grassroots, spontaneous initiative built in just a few weeks by a group of enthusiasts and concerned citizens from across Europe from the world of journalism, culture, citizens networks, civil society. Summer of Solidarity is independent and has no affiliation with a political party or movement, nor is it part of any institution. The initiative is supported by philanthropic grants and donations. Summer of Solidarity is an attempt to take part in the emergence of a European public space, at a time when showing empathy and listening to one another feels like the right thing to do – and to enjoy.

To learn more and to contribute please visit:

CDPB are launching the next phase of their EU Debate NI programme ‘Navigating Brexit: A Roundtable Series’.

Over the next 6 months, EU Debate NI will host 5 Roundtable events which will provide a space for informed discussion focused on developing flexible and imaginative solutions for Northern Ireland post-Brexit.

These Roundtable events will involve key stakeholders from across the private, public and community sectors to encourage a solutions-orientated approach, informed by leading academic expertise.

These thematic events will focus on how we navigate the Brexit process, solutions for the post-Brexit UK-EU relationship and policy priorities in the context of devolution.

The Roundtable events will include:

• Trade: retaining and enhancing the competitiveness of NI businesses
• Ensuring co-operation and strategic partnerships on the environment and agri-food sectors
• Ensuring co-operation and strategic partnerships on the environment and energy sectors”
• Maintaining the Common Travel Area, citizenship & rights
• Building our knowledge economy: the Higher Education solution

Key Observers, including representatives on the NI Civil Service, UK Government and other relevant decision-makers will be invited to all events.

The launch ‘Navigating Brexit: A Roundtable Series’ will take place at the Ulster Bank Entrepreneurial Spark in Belfast, 8-9.30am on Thursday 7th September 2017.

This event will outline the Roundtable programme and include a briefing from Professor David Phinnemore on the current status of the Brexit negotiations.

‘Navigating Brexit: A Roundtable Series’ is supported by Diamond Recruitment.

To attend the launch on 7 September please register via:

EU Debate NI: Where NI goes next?

Following the decision by the UK electorate to Leave the EU, The Centre for Democracy & Peace Building (CDPB) are to continue their ‘EU Debate NI’ programme thanks to support from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.

EU Debate NI took a neutral position to stimulate and inform debate in Northern Ireland on the consequences of remaining in or leaving the EU.

The EU Debate NI Briefing Paper set out the issues and the questions to be considered in respect of the referendum in Northern Ireland, while the outreach events and online toolkit engaged thousands of people in understanding the different issues and arguments in the Referendum.

Lord Alderdice, CDPB Chairman speaking in the House of Lords said:

“We developed a public conversation which we called EU Debate NI. I pay tribute to Eva Grosman and Conor Houston from the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building that I run in Belfast. This became the major initiative in Northern Ireland: a public conversation, not campaigning for one side or the other, but enabling people from all sides and with all views to come together in public and engage on the legal, constitutional, educational, agricultural, industrial, economic—all aspects of the question.  It meant that in Northern Ireland the debate was able to be conducted without some of the rancour and vitriol that there was in other parts of the UK.”

EU Debate NI will create the space for informed debate through events, online engagement and community outreach across NI. There will be a new Briefing Paper produced in conjunction with academics from Queen’s University Belfast setting out a roadmap and summary report of options for Northern Ireland.  EU Debate NI will make this accessible to communities and groups across Northern Ireland and promote a national conversation about how Northern Ireland can best protect its unique and special interests post-referendum.

EU Debate NI looks forward to engaging all across our society in this important discussion – follow us on Twitter @EUDebateNI or visit our website at

EU Debate NI launch referendum toolkit to help unpack the issues

EU Debate NI have today launched their online referendum toolkit to allow individuals and groups across Northern Ireland to unpack a wide range of issues in their own time and in their own way in the run up to the poll on June 23.

A programme of the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building, EU Debate NI takes a neutral position on the referendum.

Introduced by comedian Shane Todd, the online resource uses graphics, video and the contribution of experts to answer questions about

  • the wording of the referendum question, who can vote and how to register;
  • an overview of the key arguments from the Leave and Remain campaigns;
  • the stance taken by the main political parties in Northern Ireland;
  • the consequences on sovereignty, freedom of movement, immigration, the economy and funding streams
  • the process of leaving.

The EU Debate NI Toolkit can be freely access online at

This online resource builds on six interactive workshops held before Easter that shone a light on some of the issues underpinning the European Union referendum and stimulated informed debate.

In locations across Northern Ireland, attendees examined the potential affect on the border and trade; the impact on the agri-food and fishing sectors; the perspective of higher and further education; the views of those in the community, peace building and public sectors; as well as legal and criminal justice implications.

One final event asking the Remain and Leave campaigns to outline their Competing Visions for the future of the UK and Europe will be hosted in Queen’s University’s Riddel Hall over breakfast on Thursday 2 June.

For further details and requests for interviews, contact EU Debate NI programme director Conor Houston on 07930967694 or

First EU Debate NI event launched in Belfast City Hall

The first EU Debate NI event was launched in Belfast City Hall by Deputy Lord Mayor Alderman Guy Spence on Friday, 5 February. It brought together representatives from across business, public and community sectors to discuss the issues that need to be considered in Northern Ireland in relation to the upcoming UK referendum on continued EU membership.

EU Debate NI is a programme of the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building (CDPB). CDPB are taking a neutral position in this debate, seeking to stimulate and inform debate on the issues in this referendum.

Conor Houston, Programme Director at CDPB commented following the event that “it was a lively, engaging and interactive event. We had round table discussions together with interactive polling allowed for diverse opinions and a range of views to be debated – including issues around trade, cross-border, immigration, effect on peace-funding and many other topics.”